Master of Arts in Teaching, 2010
School of Education
July 1, 2009
Engineer Discovers His Passion for Teaching While Working With Youth
While currently on track to obtain his Single Subject Credential in mathematics and physics, O’brian Rossi’s initial interest in science and technology led him to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. Upon graduating in 2006, O’brian worked as a space systems engineer where he conducted conceptual space vehicle designs, evaluated proposed and existing vehicle designs, and developed three-dimensional CAD (Computer-Aided Design) vehicle configurations in support for the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and NASA customers.
However, after a year O’brian gradually realized that his path in engineering was not his true passion. This discovery came as O’brian regularly juxtaposed his comfortable office job analyzing satellites in Los Angeles with the urgent need to address the poverty, hunger, and educational inequalities, which occurred not only locally, but globally as well. Regarding his dilemma, O’brian explains:
I was living in a paradox where I was drawn by the science of working on complex satellite systems yet driven away by the role I was partaking in supporting the military industrial complex. The moment I became aware of the larger social context I was in, the stronger my passion became in finding a career that was more aligned with my moral principles.
O’brian quit his job and decided to leave the aerospace industry in search of a more fulfilling career which allowed him to concentrate on the immediate needs of those who he felt were impoverished, powerless, and so often forgotten in society. Since departing from engineering, O’brian has interned with the Community Action Partnership of Orange County, a non-profit devoted to eliminating and preventing the causes and effects of poverty by directing resources to programs that assist, educate, and promote self sufficiency. There, O’brian helped develop Backpacks for Success!, a back-to-school supply drive for 1500 homeless and disadvantaged students who receive a new backpack filled with school supplies and nutritious food. Moreover, O’brian had the opportunity to lead an after school program where at-risk middle school and high school students received free tutoring and CAHSEE (CA High School Exit Exam) tutorial in mathematics.
Thereafter, O’brian co-taught a summer digital culture class to 20 middle school students in a rural Zapotec village in Oaxaca, Mexico. The goal of the class was to instruct youth on using digital media (i.e. digital cameras, video cameras, audio recorders, websites, and blogs) in order to preserve and promote the local indigenous culture there. Primarily a farming community, O’brian established profound relationships with numerous families burdened by financial hardships where children rarely continued their education passed middle school in order to help support their families. O’brian recalls:
Pressured to work from an early age, many boys leave Santa Lucia by age 16 to find work and often wind up north of the border for years before seeing their families again. The separation between families was highly prevalent and has contributed to the gradual loss of the Zapotec language and customs that were once so rich in this village. This is why the skills we taught in the technology class became more than just an ability to disseminate information, but it empowered the youth with the skills to preserve and share their language, their culture, and essentially their identity.
Such experiences has steered O’brian closer to teaching while further confirming his passion in working with youth. Additionally, growing up in a low income, single parent household where little English was spoken at home, O’brian personally understands how valuable education can be to advance one’s socioeconomic status. As a firm believer that the quality of one’s education should not be dependent on the wealth of either the family or the community into which the child is born or resides, O’brian plans to teach in a high-needs school where he is committed to bridge these educational inequalities and inspire students to reach their academic potential.
Over the past year, O’brian has completed his student teaching in an Algebra I class at Saddleback High School within the Santa Ana Unified School District. He is currently continuing his education through UCI’s Master of Arts in Teaching program. As a Noyce Stem Teaching Scholar, he has also committed two years to teaching in a high-needs school beginning in the fall.
Link to Santa Lucia Ocotlan Digital Culture Class Website: